Details have emerged for the first time about how the world’s largest crypto exchange platform, Binance, worked with a financial intelligence agency in Russia.
This relationship, according to an in-depth report by Reuters, began in April last year when the regional head of Binance met with some officials of the FSB-linked agency.
Binance top exec met with a Russian agency
During the meeting, the agency, widely known as Rosfinmonitoring, demanded that Binance provide it with the data of some of its clients.
This data, which included personal details like names and addresses, were needed to help the country in its fight against crime, the agency claimed during the meeting.
Sources privy to the matter told Reuters that a prominent name on the agency’s radar at the time was Alexei Navalny, the country’s jailed opposition leader.
It is important to note that it was during this month that the agency added Navalny’s network to its list of terrorist organizations. But in response, the embattled political figure argued that the financial transactions in question were dedicated to exposing various corrupt practices in the government of Vladimir Putin.
Details about what transpired, which was gathered by Reuters through text messages sent by the company official to a business associate, further indicated that the decision to provide the government agency with its client data was approved by Binance’s head of Eastern Europe and Russia, Gleb Kostarev.
Explaining his decision to agree to the request, Gleb, told an associate at the time that he had only one option because he didn’t have “much of a choice” in the matter.
Binance denies any wrongdoing
Gleb refused to respond to Reuters’ request for comments. Binance, however, told Reuters that it had never been contacted by Russian authorities for information on Navalny.
The company continued that before the current war between Russia and Ukraine, it was “actively seeking compliance in Russia,” which would have required it to respond to “appropriate requests from regulators and law enforcement agencies.”
It should be noted that Binance CEO, Changpeng Zhao, had said a blanket ban on ordinary Russians using the exchange would be unfair. However, the exchange has been forced to suspend its operations for Russian citizens and entities that hold over $10,885 in their crypto wallets.
Other major payment and fintech companies, MasterCard, and others have halted their operations in Russia due to its invasion of its neighbor.